When you are going on vacation or travelling for the holidays, you need a strategy to bring along enough toys for a small child without having to pack a whole suitcase for every toy your child has touched within the past year.
We have travelled overseas a lot with our children, and we had to figure out over time what worked well for us. Each child’s needs can be different, so be sure that you are sensitive to what your child will experience on vacation and how best to balance the comfort of familiar toys with the excitement of travel and new experiences. As your children get older they are better able to take what comes on a trip, but they still need a few comfort items. As we get ready for a month-long trip over the holidays, we’ve started talking about what we need to take with us.
These are a few of the ways we have kept the balance of toys under control as we travel.
Take Comfort Toys
Each of my children has gone through stages of needing particular toys, pillows, blankets, and books with them. The soothing effect of having these is worth the space it takes to pack them. If your child talks, you might ask, “Which toys do you need to have with you at grandma’s house?” If this results in two important toys, perfect. If you have 21 stuffed animals, board games, and giant pillows lined up, work to narrow the choice down to a few. The younger a child, the higher stimulation an unfamiliar place might bring on. Familiar comfort toys encourage some down time to recover before heading back into the adventure.
Take Creative, Quiet Toys
Whether you will be travelling by public transport or in your own car is important in determining what kind of toys you need. Dings and beeps and clickity-clacks don’t work so well on a plane, when other passengers are already looking sideways at you, wondering if your child is going to disturb them. Quiet toys that hold the attention work well on the plane. This might mean cloth books, drawing materials, fuzzy felt story scenes with movable characters, finger puppets, or other small, soft toys that encourage long periods of play but won’t create more noise if they are banged on a tray. If you are driving, the noise level depends on what the other passengers can handle. A noisy, singalong car trip certainly has its appeal.
Play with Daddy’s Old Toys
Whether you are stopping in with the grandparents for an extended stay or just for Thanksgiving weekend, you children will likely be interested to know what you played with when you were their age. Of course, this only works if your parents haven’t cleared out those old toys years ago. In my husband’s family, they have generation after generation of toys still out, from Dobbin the mid-19th century rocking horse (whom all grandchildren ride) to bagatelle, a pinball game from the 1920s, and Granny’s own dolls from the 1940s. If you are travelling home for the holidays, ask your parents or parents-in-law to gather a few old toys that your children might be interested in. It’s great fun to watch as your children realize you really were their age long, long ago.
You don’t always want your child to be focused down on a toy. Encourage looking around, watching people, taking in the scenery, even just looking at license plates. Not every moment has to include toys for entertainment. At Granny and Grandpa’s house, my kids create a whole new world of games in the huge garden, and they spend time talking, reading, and exploring with their grandparents. We don’t want to recreate home on vacation, but we do want to have a few familiar toys to give a child an anchor during the adventure of travel.